The retina is a layer of cells at the back of the eyeball that pretty much works like film on camera. When it separates from the tissue around it or when it tears, people suffer from visual loss. For years, scientists have been trying to grow retinal tissue, but in previous attempts the cells that respond to light (photoreceptors) didn’t react to stimuli.
In a study published recently in the journal Nature Communications, a team of researchers from John Hopkins University, in the US, reported that they have finally created retinal tissue with photoreceptors that respond to light.
“We have basically created a miniature human retina in a dish that not only has the architectural organisation of the retina, but also has the ability to sense light,” study team leader Maria Valeria Canto-Soler, a developmental biologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a news release. To make these mini-retinas, instead of showering stem cells with chemicals, the researchers recreated the same conditions that surround retinal cells in the womb.
“The most surprising and exciting thing was that stem cells were able to follow the whole process of forming a human retina in a petri dish almost on their own, to the point it was able to respond to light like a normal retina,” Canto-Soler said to LiveScience. “When we started this project, we weren’t really shooting for this—we didn’t think this would happen.”
This is a huge step towards developing treatments for retinitis pigmentosa and other conditions that cause visual impairment. However, the researchers explained, there’s still a lot of work to be done before these mini-retinas can be transplanted into humans. Via Researchers have made mini-retinas in a petri dish